The half-way point of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship season is nearly upon us as the series heads to the Sacramento Mile at the Cal-Expo Fairgrounds in just less than 2 days. With Jared Mees leading Bryan Smith in the standings (127-122 points), and Jake Johnson right behind the two riders going for the title (121 points), Saturday's events on the left coast could make a definitive mark on the run to the title hunt with the remaining eight events left on the schedule after leaving Sacramento.
Early season points leader Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. is still a strong possibility for the crown as well (114 points) as he is also the only other rider than Mees and Smith to have captured two wins on the season as of this point of the schedule.
In the shot above, the top-4 men in the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship hunt head for the stripe at the end of the first lap of the 25-lap National main earlier this season in the series' first mile event of the year at the Springfield Mile on May 25.
Mile specialist Bryan Smith leads the pack on the #42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio/Howerton Products-sponsored Kawasaki EX650, with Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on the #2 Zanotti Racing/Moroney's H-D/Burt Ives Honda-backed Harley-Davidson XR750 close behind.
Moving up on Coolbeth's outside is Jake Johnson on the #5 Ramspur Winery/Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Parkinson Bros-sponsored Ducati 'L' twin, while Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing/Las Vegas H-D/Blue Springs H-D-backed XR750 keeps it close to the leading trio. Henry Wiles on the #17 Don's Kawasaki/DPC Racing/EA Racing-sponsored Kawi has a bird's eye view of the leading battle.
With Sacramento being the second mile event of the season, and not only the championship on the line but the winning streak record in reach of 3-times in-a-row event winner Smith, this Saturday's race has a boatload of possibilities and strategies that will play out throughout the day's events.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 23, 2014) - The Sacramento Mile is already a premier event on the AMA Pro Flat Track schedule, but the stop has the potential to be absolutely huge for one Grand National Championship title contender.
Bryan Smith, and his No. 42 Villa Esparza/Crosley Radio Kawasaki, will try to race into the record books and take control of the championship chase Saturday on the famous mile course at the Cal Expo. Smith, a three-time defending Sacramento Mile winner, can become the first ever four-time winner in the event's history.
Smith was second to Jared Mees and his No. 9 Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson last weekend at the Grays Harbor Half-Mile, but he's reeled off three straight podiums - including a win at the Hagerstown Half-Mile. Mees leads the title hunt, and has won two of the last three races, but his advantage over Smith is a scant five points. Mees' thrilling win in Washington came with a margin of just .369 seconds, further evidence that practically nothing is separating the two Michigan riders this season.
Bryan Smith on the #42 Crosley Radip/Howerton Motorsports Kawasaki EX650 and Brad Baker on the #12 Dodge Brothers Racing/Sefnco Communications Harley-Davidson XR750 battle during the Sacramento Mile event in 2013. Smith is looking to set a new winning record at Cal-Expo this Saturday, while Baker is looking to break out of his slump and grab his first National main event win for the 2014 season. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
At last year's Sacramento Mile, Smith beat Mees to the finish line by just .083 seconds, and the top five all crossed the line within less than a quarter of a second. In fact, since the return of the Sacramento Mile to the AMA Pro Flat Track schedule in 2011, every main event has been won by less than a tenth of a second, so history suggests fans can expect an epic finish.
While Mees and Smith are the two hottest GNC riders as the season nears its midpoint, Jake Johnson on his No. 5 Ramspur Winery machine is right on their heels, just one point behind Smith for second in points, six back of Mees (127-122-121). Johnson has been consistent all season, finishing no worse than sixth since taking 10th in the opener at Daytona, but he's still searching for his first victory of the season.
Kenny Coolbeth can't be counted out either. The pilot of the No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson has two wins this year and could have had more if not for a little bad luck. He's fourth in points, but just 13 off the lead and still among the favorites for the overall championship. Sammy Halbert and his No. 7 South East Harley-Davidson round out the top five in points entering the Sacramento Mile. Halbert is looking for his first win of the season still, but he's shown pace to run in the front and is capable of winning every time the hits the track.
Brandon Robinson on the No. 44 USC Kawasaki machine and Henry Wiles on the No. 17 Don's Kawasaki entry sit sixth and seventh, respectively, in the title hunt, easily within striking distance of the leaders if they are able to put together some strong finishes starting with Saturday's event.
In the Pro Singles class, the title chase is even tighter. Two riders are tied atop the standings and a third is just a point back.
Kyle Johnson and his No. 77J Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda and Davis Fisher on the No. 67M T.J. Burnett Farms Honda are knotted with 99 points apiece. Ryan Wells, riding the No. 94B KTM, is third with 98 points.
It was Jarod Vanderkooi, who was too young to start the season as a pro at Daytona, who took the checkered flag at Grays Harbor on his No. 17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycle Honda. That victory snapped a run of three straight for Kyle Johnson. Last season, Shayna Texter won the Pro Singles main event, and has since moved up to the Expert class, where she will compete Saturday.
How to Watch
FansChoice.tv will be the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Road Racing events in 2014. The site will also provide coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.
About AMA Pro Flat Track
AMA Pro Flat Track is a national motorcycle racing series in North America and is considered one of the oldest forms of motorcycle racing. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, the Series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track racing in the world. The 2014 schedule consists of 16 rounds on the country's finest flat track courses. For more information on AMA Pro Flat Track, please visit www.amaproracing.com/ft.
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.
For additional information contact:
AMA Pro Racing Communications, (386) 492-1014, firstname.lastname@example.org